Cerebral Palsy (CP) refers to a motor impairment due to brain damage. The impairment leads to poor body coordination and involuntary movements (Miller 2). Disability on its part refers to the restriction in a person’s ability to do what a person of the same age is capable of in daily life. For instance, a five year old child who cannot walk is disabled because normally a person of that age can walk without assistance (Davis 4). The Americans with Disabilities amendment Act of 2008 (ADA) is a legislation developed to ensure that even the disabled are included all day to day activities. It was passed in 1990 and amended in 2008 to incorporate current needs of people with disability (Justice par. 1).
The Americans with Disabilities Amendment Act (2008)
The act essentially outlaws the discrimination of persons basing on disability. Its beneficiaries are those with disabilities and those having a relationship or association with someone having a disability. It defines disability as the possession of a mental or physical impairment which considerably limits at least one life activity. It also covers people with a history of such impairment, or who is perceived by other people as having such impairment. It however does specify the impairments that qualify to fit in this category (Davis 21). An assessment of the extent to which CP affects one’s life will therefore help to determine whether they are disabled and therefore affected by the act.
The Disabling Effect of Cerebral Palsy (CP)
Impairments due to CP usually appear in infancy and early childhood. Most of those affected have difficulties in muscle coordination and control hence difficulty in movement (Palisano 606). CP may either be spastic, dyskinetic or mixed. Spastic causes stiffening of muscles and jerky or awkward movement and is further divided into diplegia where both legs are affected, hemiplegia where one body side is affected or quadriplegia where the entire body is affected. Quadriplegia is the most common, accounting for 70 to 80% of cases. Dyskinetic limits coordination in movement and may be either athetoid or ataxic.
In athetoid, there is slow and writhing movement in any body part. Ataxic on its part affects coordination, balance and depth perception hence one’s gait becomes unsteady. In the mixed version, there is a combination of the forms, mostly athetoid and spastic. People with CP possess either normal or superior intelligence. Their ability may however be limited by the communication difficulties (Miller 22).
Beckung et al also note that a common challenge faced is skeletal deformity where limbs on one side become shorter. This may lead to spinal curvature. There may also be speech problems because speaking depends on mouth, throat and tongue’s muscular movements.
CP is at times characterized by inability to control the muscles hence abnormal speech. There may also be the hearing loss. Partial loss of hearing is common in the condition. CP is also associated with sight problems. About 75 per cent of cases develop strabismus, the turning out or in of one eye due to muscle weakness controlling eye movements. They thus often end up nearsighted. If not corrected early, the condition may worsen (187).
Provisions and Effects of the of the Act on Cerebral Palsy
Considering the challenges faced by persons with CP, they may be considered as being disabled hence covered by the act. The first subchapter of the act requires that employers give qualified disabled persons equal opportunity for existing benefits such as recruitment, pay, social activities, training, promotion and such like. There is the prohibiting of questions relating to disability before employment. The provisions benefit persons with CP because as long as they qualified and capable of working, they may not be rejected. Employers are also required to provide accommodation in tasks for the various mental and physical limitations that CP causes (Justice 8).
Subchapter II requires that all public institutions offer equal opportunities and benefits of activities, services and programs. People with Cerebral Palsy are therefore shielded from discrimination because of the mental and physical disabilities that they may possess. There is also the additional requirement that public buildings set accommodative architectural standards to enable their access by the disabled. This is very significant to people with CP because many have walking difficulties.
By requiring that programs and services initially stationed in inaccessible buildings to be moved to other places, the excuse that moving offices is expensive will be eliminated. The act also notes that there should be modification of communication to accommodate people with speech, vision and hearing difficulties. This will also greatly benefit persons with CP because such limitations are common characteristics of their condition. They will therefore be adequately provided for in public utilities (Justice 16-23).
The subsection also addresses public transport. Authorities in these are prohibited from discriminating against the disabled in their services. They are required to have accessibility by the disabled as a factor in any new bus purchases or remanufacture those available to accommodate the special needs. There is also the recommendation that a ‘paratransit’ system be established, involving designating places where those unable to independently access the regular system due to mental or physical impairment will be picked and dropped off (Justice 24-29). Many people with CP will benefit from such provisions due to the condition’s common effect on the spine.
Subchapter III dwells on entities administering courses and examinations, public accommodation and other facilities. Public accommodations are required no be non discriminative. Accessibility to buildings, communication with those with hearing, speech and vision problems are also enforced, providing an opportunity for persons with CP to be treated fairly in recreational and commercial facilities.
Educational, professional or trade examinations and courses are to be offered in a manner and place that can be accessed by the disabled, failure of which an alternative system should be created for them (Justice 30). The measures will help those with CP as their physical limitations will not bar them from pursuing their professions or trades.
Subchapter IV dwells on television and telephone access to those with speech and hearing problems. It provides that telephone companies have to create intra and Interstate Telecommunications Relay Services throughout. This is aimed at enabling callers who have speech and hearing challenges and use special devices such as typewriters and those who communicate through third parties to have uninterrupted communication (Justice 41). All the new provisions help to make lives of people with Cerebral Palsy much easier because they cater for speech, hearing and motion difficulties
Cerebral palsy is a condition in which a person’s motor coordination is impaired due to brain damage in the earlier stages of life. The Americans with Disability Act was formulated to eliminate the discrimination of people with disabilities, a group into which those with Cerebral Palsy may be placed.
Provisions of the act relate to fairness in employment, public transport, public accommodations and private services, in addition to telecommunications. In general, the act has the effect of preventing discrimination and insensitivity to the needs of people with Cerebral Palsy. They also promote the setting up of physical infrastructure that accommodates the special needs of this special group.
Beckung Eva, Hagberg Gudrun, Uldall Peter & Cans Christine. “Probability of Walking in Children with Cerebral Palsy in Europe.” Paediatrics (Vol. 121 No. 1 January 2008): 187- 192.
Davis, Lennard. The Disability Studies Reader. New York: Routledge, 2008.
Justice, U.S. Department of. Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, As Amended. 25 March 2009. 2 April 2009 <http://www.ada.gov/pubs/ada.htm>.
Miller, Freeman. Cerebral Palsy. New York: Macmillan, 2005.
Palisano, Doreen & Bartlett, Robert. “A Multivariate Model of Determinants of Motor Change f or Children With Cerebral Palsy.” Physical Therapy (Vol. 80 No.6,2000): 598-614.